#Kscope13 Labs - Thank You!


Did you participate in an EPM or BI lab aka Hands-on Training at Kscope13? Training is one of the most popular components of Kscope; so popular that we have to ration access to it.  

Our BI/EPM labs this year were quite diverse:

Instructor Company Lab
Nancy Hamilton KPI Partners Oracle BI Analysis and Dashboards 11g Basic
Oracle BI Analysis and Dashboards 11g Advanced
Rudy Zucca 123OLAP Working with the New Workflow (Planning) 
Planning Form Design Tips and Tricks
Mike Nader Bluestone International Essbase Studio for Beginners
Eric Erikson 123OLAP Intro to Calc Manager for HFM
Ron Moore MTG MDX Beyond Basics: Putting MDX to Work


While the great content of the sessions was due to the instructors, I know of no other conference that offers Kscope’s depth and breadth of training in BI/EPM.

How things work

But have you wondered at all how ODTUG runs the servers that power these sessions? After all, the BI/EPM stack isn’t exactly something that runs in a normal laptop. Does ODTUG have a server farm that it can tap into whenever needed? Actually, yes, it does.

Enter the Cloud

Once upon a time, BI/EPM labs were taught on leased laptops. This was very, very, very painful both for the installers (usually Tim Tow’s Applied OLAP employees aka chain gang prisoners), ghosting images onto laptop hard drives, and for the attendees alike as laptop-as-server technology could barely, if at all, keep up with software requirements. As mentioned, ghosting the laptops took a long time and it was difficult to coordinate the building of the laptops and the incorporation of instructor class files. 

But starting in 2011, the BI/EPM labs moved to the Amazon cloud, thanks to the hard work of John Booth, then of Emerging Solutions. 

You use the Cloud, so what’s the big deal?

The big deal is ODTUG has to bring up 75 servers, simultaneously, with the right Amazon Machine Image (AMI) for the lab, kill them all at the end of the lab, and have another 75 ready to run before the next lab starts. Did I mention that we have to provide custom urls for the labs, keep instructor class materials segregated to avoid confusion, and do all of this in the context of a conference? 

I too am a user of the Cloud (in fact I have an Amazon instance running as I type this, chock full of code for my next blog post) but nothing on that scale. How does ODTUG do it?

The details

Kscope’s labs are the end result of the work of a collection of talented volunteers.

Base AMIs

Luis Castillo of Emtec created brand new EPM and BI images. In fact, Luis did more than that – he created custom brand new EPM and BI images for each one of the instructors. This, in case you have never attempted installing the BI/EPM stack, is not exactly a minor undertaking. To get it installed, and make it reliable (remember we are talking about 75 simultaneous servers in the case of the EPM labs; BI ran on One Really Big Virtual Box), and do it in time for the conference is pretty spectacular. Luis, ODTUG really thanks you for all of your hard work.


How do all of those instances get launched with the right Amazon IDs? How do they get tied to custom urls? How do they get destroyed when the lab is over? 

John Booth, now of Bluestone International, created a whole slew of scripts to do all of the above, and more. Correctly installed BI/EPM instances are one thing, but managing them is another and John’s scripts do just that. I’ve already described what the scripts do, but know that the skills to handle all of this aren’t exactly readily available. John, ODTUG really thanks you for all of your hard work.


The actual labs, where students meet their instructors and hopefully useful content as well, were run by Derek Hill of Applied OLAP. Derek was more than just the man that walks amongst the students, but instead was responsible for, well, everything that it took to run the labs save for the actual teaching of content. Derek worked with Luis and John to ensure that the scripts (now three years old) still worked fine in the Amazon Cloud (they do, and thanks again, John), ran the scripts at the appropriate times to support the labs, and worked with the lab instructors to keep the labs going. Derek, ODTUG really thanks you for all of your hard work.

William Booth and Logan Tow of Applied OLAP also contributed to the labs as proctors – you know, the guys that actually help students out when they can’t connect. William and Logan, ODTUG really thanks you for all of your hard work.

And that’s the end, until Kscope14

In case you haven’t picked up on this post’s theme, ODTUG’s BI/EPM labs were the hard work of a collection of volunteers that came together to give you, oh Kscope attendee, some of the best technical training extant. Did I mention that everyone, from the instructors to the men behind the scenes were volunteers? In particular, Luis, John, and Derek as well as all of the instructors put in countless after work hours gathering requirements, defining deliverables, building AMIs, testing scripts, and of course actually conducting the labs. They did this all for free. That is true community involvement and outreach. To all of you, instructor and infrastructure volunteer alike, ODTUG and the Oracle community really thank you for all of your hard work.

I don’t know of any organization in the Oracle space that inspires people the way ODTUG does. I do know that success breeds success and with that maxim in mind, I know that Kscope14’s labs will be even better than Kscope13’s.

Be seeing you in the Seattle, Washington labs.

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